See (below) moments of shared joy
-- no, abandon and hilarity together -- for the eight courageous Israelis and
Palestinians braving Antarctica to discover one another and a way to plea to
their peoples for a great future together.
And how they return in the morning to serious, all-day shipboard preparations for their historic trek.
Exquisite, careful teamwork. Total goodwill.
Then, as a "last
step," the inner, personal work to create a shared document to
proclaim on the mountain about their beloved Middle East home and future
A revelation. They had prepared for the physical journey. But, at the level of the deep conflicts, they hardly knew one another.
Mountaineering they had well-prepared for. Dialogue, beginning with it's quality of compassionate listening, had not been part of the training. They succumbed to debate -- being right or wrong, winning and losing.
Sharply contrasting views of history and the present. Discrediting one another's narratives. Blame. Anger. Walking out. Tears. Going to sleep.
Then awakening in the morning to leave the boat and set out -- yes, very together -- for the mountain of their dreams
LAST MINUTE UPDATE:
The complete team has departed toward the mountain.
The women and men are now are on ice, walking toward the never-scaled peak which they will summit and name.
YOU may submit your vote for the mountain's name, at:
Palestinian Olfat Haider's pelvis is bruised, not broken as feared. She continues
Israeli Avi Shoshani's knee is injured and painful. He is not giving up.
The group will pace their climb differently, so they can all be on top of the mountain together.
To them, this is the most important thing.
We all surely wish them safety and strength.
Communication will now be more difficult and less frequent.
We will faithfully forward news as it becomes available.
Photos are at http://www.breaking-the-ice.de/t_gallery.htm .
Below, their abbreviated Daily Log, with the full version at http://www.breaking-the-ice.de/WebLog/b2/ .
If you've missed earlier shortened excerpts from the Daily log, you may request them by title, listed at the bottom of:
BREAKING THE ICE -- Daily Log
-- Saturday-Sunday, 11-12 January 2004
Saturday-Sunday, 11-12 January 2004
Expedition Sparks International Affair -- Vernadsky Research Station, Antarctica (65 S -- 64 W)
It all began with Catrin Ellis Jones' Pisco Sours (a mixture of pisco -- an alcoholic beverage debatably of Peruvian or Chilean origin -- fresh lemon juice, crushed ice, whisked egg whites and icing sugar). Fueled by the first mate's concoction, the evening took on a life of its own.
The Breaking the Ice peace expedition to Antarctica had just concluded a brief...morning visit to the nesting colony of Adelie penguins on Yalour Island. . .Palestinian Suleiman al-Khatib persuaded to come along despite his distaste for the aroma of penguin guano. . .Pelagic Australis and Pelagic dropped anchor in a small, protected cove alongside the Ukrainian Vernadsky Research Station. . . to enjoy the warmth of a splendid Antarctic summer evening.
Sausages, ham and cheeses. . .when the pisco ran out wine and whisky replaced it, along with orange juice for the abstemious...Israeli and Palestinian expedition members, mountain guides, ships' crew, media and communication specialists visiting back and forth between the boats. . .a cocktail party atmosphere began developing in the most bizarre of locations.
That's when Vladimir, Vladimir, Vladimir and Yevgeny showed up - two Ukrainian researchers, their station chief and cook - bearing a welcoming gift of vodka. . .Glasses were rapidly filled and raised in a toast to international friendship. . .another toast -- to Israeli-Palestinian peace. . .more toaststo various nations, notions, emotions and individuals. . .Ship's doctor Arik Shechter, who immigrated to Israel from the Ukraine, helped out with translation. . .the reasons for each refilling of the glasses were becoming less and less apparent and of increasingly less concern to the participants.
Vernadsky Research Station. . .famous for its hospitality. . .Ukrainian scientists conduct important studies of the environment. . ..hole in Earth's ozone layer was discovered here during the base's former incarnation as Great Britain's Faraday Research Station. . .in addition to their ecological research the Ukrainians have also gained notoriety as the proprietors of the southernmost bar on the face of the planet. . .spreaders of goodwill in the remoteness of the frozen continent.
Pelagic Australis invited its Ukrainian friends to stay on board. . .dinner of roast lamb and mashed potatoes mixed with carrots, . . .uninterrupted flow of wine and vodka. . .All attempts at serious conversation proved futile and the evening repast was heavily spiced with hysterical howls of laughter. . .Nasser Quass, a devout Muslim who refrains from alcohol, seemed inebriated by the spirit of the moment. "I don't believe I'm seeing this," he said. "Look at these Israelis and Palestinians and French and Americans and Ukrainians all sitting around together and having fun. Everyone's speaking a different language and it doesn't make any difference if they really understand. They're just enjoying themselves. No one back home will believe me if I tell them this is what I discovered in Antarctica."
Increasingly difficult to think of this as an 'extreme' expedition. . .music began blasting from the loudspeakers. . .any pretense of hardship on the high seas completely evaporated. . .only three women on board, compared with about 25 men, the dancing got off to a slow start. . .Genya -- called Yevgeny before the drinking began -- did his impression of John Travolta's 'Pulp Fiction' disco dance. . .the ice was truly and fully broken. . .the entire crowd was on its feet.
What followed (until some indeterminate hour of the morning) is difficult, and perhaps unwise, to describe. After all, Breaking the Ice is a very serious initiative -- an attempt by Israelis and Palestinians to reach the summit of an unclimbed mountain in Antarctica in order to show their peoples that they can, indeed, work together in pursuit of shared objectives. . .suffice it to report the. . .expedition leader Doron Erel really does know how to boogie; Palestinian Olfat Haider and Israeli Yarden Fanta have some great moves on the dance floor; given enough liquid encouragement, even mountain guides can lose their equilibrium; even in Antarctica, it's never too cold to take off your shirt; spending ten days together at sea is more than enough reason to let off some steam; and Catrin Ellis Jones makes a powerful pisco sour.
Yes, there are also days - and nights - like this here in the far southern latitudes. This one was a prelude to more difficult days and nights ahead as the expedition team gears up to leave its boats behind, pitch its tents and begin the long trek across the ice.
Trekkers on Ice -- finding some unexpected shared
humanity -- Prospect Point, Antarctica (66 S -- 65 W)
Pelagic Australis makes its way. . .floating sheets of sea ice off the coast of the Antarctic Peninsula. . .avoid the growlers (iceberg fragments). . .could do serious damage. . .Just a week ago the sea ice was still frozen into a single solid mass and Prospect Point was unreachable. Today, we're headed toward the shore.
Excitement on board this morning. . .within sight of the mountain its eight Israeli and Palestinian team members hope to climb in the days ahead - the mountain from which they hope to tell the world that their two peoples can set aside their historic conflict and work together in pursuit of a better future.
Sunny and warm, windless and cloudless. . .dressed lightly. . .sun reflecting so strongly off the still water. . . everyone's wearing sunglasses. . .hoping that things will remain exactly as they are. . .ensuring a smooth trek across the ice. . .If the winds blow too hard or snow begins. . .the team might be forced to spend its time seeking shelter in tents rather than moving toward its objective.
The expedition has to be prepared for every possibility. . .this day is spent getting organized. . .On the foredeck. . .gathering ski poles and snowshoes and crampons, food and canisters of cooking gas, climbing ropes and tents. Expedition leader Doron Erel and mountain guide Nadav Khalifa oversee everything, counting every item to make sure nothing has been forgotten.
On the aft deck, communications specialist Tony Robinson is helping media producer Mario Dirienger assemble and test the portable (but heavy) satellite ground station, generator, fuel and computers that will enable the trekkers to beam news of their progress to people around the world.
Below deck. . .stuffing their backpacks with sleeping bags, thermal air mattresses, toilet paper, toothbrushes and utensils. . .layers of fleece and down cold weather apparel. . .cameras, cameras and more cameras.
Expedition physician Arik Shechter is assembling his medical kit. . .aspirin to surgical implements, ready for any eventuality that may befall the team as it moves across the frozen glacier and its hidden crevasses.
And cameraman Colin Rosin is everywhere, capturing everything on video, observed by the occasional passing penguin or two.
Lead climbing guide Denis Ducroz and Pelagic Australis' captain Skip Novak set off to scout the route to the mountain. . .team members Avihu Shoshani and Suleiman al-Khatib begin the slow process of loading all the equipment on rubber dinghies and ferrying it to shore. . .red plastic sleds are already there, waiting to carry whatever's too big or too heavy to go on people's backs.
Preparations last most of the day. . .Everything checked and double-checked. . .Once the group sets out toward its mountain, there will be no turning back.
Teamwork on the boat belies the heated debate that erupted last night in Pelagic Australis' saloon when the expedition members attempted to work out the language of the joint declaration they plan to issue upon reaching the summit of the mountain. They want to make a statement that will resonate strongly with both Israelis and Palestinians, but finding words general enough to be accepted by all yet strong enough to get the expedition's message across proved to be no easy task.
Began calmly enough, with Breaking the Ice initiator Heskel Nathaniel suggesting. . .simply state the team's understanding that Israelis and Palestinians can live together in peace. "This is what we've seen here, among us," said Nathaniel. "We've been together for ten days now. Look at how we're getting along. This should be our message to the world - that we can do it, and that it can be done." The suggestion met with universal approval.
The atmosphere began heating. . .Suleiman al-Khatib suggested that the resolution be more specific. . .objection to the separation fence Israel is building between it and the Palestinians. Doron Erel argued. . .adopting a political stance was not the expedition's goal. . .its message was and should remain human. . .Ziad Darwish suggested that the resolution make a statement opposing all use of violence. . .Avihu Shoshani argued that Israel's actions toward the Palestinians were not violence but, rather, self-defense.
The longer the conversation continued, the more bitter the debate became. Avihu Shoshani became furious when Nasser Quass argued that Israel and the Jews had no real claim to what they call the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, now the site of the Al Aksa mosque, because there had never been a Jewish temple there. Quass was enraged when Yarden Fanta called Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat a terrorist and murderer. Ziad Darwish left the room, claiming that the conversation had turned into a forum for sensationalism. And Olfat Haider, sitting off to the side, appeared transfixed by the anger in the air. Later, she broke down in tears.
Despite their differences, this morning all the team members were back on deck. . .helping prepare the equipment. . .getting ready to embark on the final leg of a journey. . . already13,000 kilometers from their homes in the Middle East.
Late in the afternoon. . .all their equipment ashore. . .established their first base camp on Antarctic soil. . .ready to begin days of trekking and camping, testing their physical and mental abilities and, they hope, proving to everyone that they can break the ice - that they, the people, can achieve peace.